Stormwater Utility Fee

City of Champaign Stormwater Utility Fee Information

On April 12, 2012, the City of Champaign passed an ordinance that established a stormwater utility fee. This is a new fee that all Champaign properties owners will pay for City stormwater management services.

Below is a list of frequently asked questions about the stormwater utility fee.  

To the right is a list of important links under “Stormwater Topics.”

If you have questions after perusing the stormwater utility fee webpages, please contact us at 217.403.4700 and we will be happy to assist you.

What is a stormwater utility fee?

Enlarge image of stormwater cycle.

Like gas, electricity, water, and sewage, stormwater runoff can be managed as a utility and billed as a fee. The fee is based on the concept that every property in a watershed contributes stormwater runoff and should support the operation, maintenance, and rehabilitation of stormwater drainage systems in the City. The amount of support is based on the amount of stormwater runoff the property contributes to the City stormwater drainage system. The amount of stormwater runoff a property contributes is directly proportional to the amount of impervious area or hard surface that is on the property.

An impervious surface is any hard surface that does not allow rain to absorb into the ground. Impervious surfaces increase stormwater runoff. Examples of impervious surfaces are roofs, parking lots, streets, sidewalks, and driveways.

Why is the fee needed?

Champaign maintains drainage channels, detention basins and 280 miles of storm sewer pipe that cost $3 million annually for their upkeep. These maintenance expenses along with paying off bonds on past projects use up most of the stormwater fund, which leaves no funding for future drainage Capital Improvement Projects. Stormwater plans have identified $80 million of future drainage improvement projects that are needed in flood prone areas of Champaign. The recent John and East Washington drainage improvements are examples of this type of project. Revenue from the stormwater utility fee will provide funding to continue the high level of operation and maintenance needed for the upkeep of Champaign’s storm sewer system. The Stormwater Utility Fee will also provide funding to pay for future drainage projects, such as the West Washington Watershed and Phase III of the Boneyard Creek Project.

Do I have to pay a stormwater utility fee for my property?

Healey Street Detention Basin, September 2008

All properties within the City that have 500 square feet or more of impervious area will pay a fee. The program is based on the concept that all property owners benefit from the City’s stormwater management programs and all properties place a demand on the City’s storm systems due to impervious surfaces creating rainfall runoff.

Do Churches, Schools, and Non-Profit Organizations have to pay the fee?

Yes, Churches, Schools, and Non-Profit Organizations will pay a stormwater utility fee. The program is based on customers paying a fee to the City for stormwater management services to the property.

How much is my stormwater utility fee?

Stormwater utility fees are based on the amount of impervious area on your property, which includes surfaces such as rooftops, driveways, patios, sidewalks or any other hard surfaces that do not allow stormwater to infiltrate into the ground. For Single Family Residential Customers, Table 1 shows the monthly billing amount based on the amount of impervious surface area.

TierImpervious Area
(square feet)
Monthly Fee
1500 to 6,000$4.94
26,001 to 8,000$10.55
3Over 8,000$13.64

For all other properties, the billing amount is $1.51 per month for every 1,000 square feet of impervious surface area on your property. This includes commercial, industrial or any other property that is not a Single Family Residential property.

All customers should have received a letter from the City in March or April 2013 that provided an estimate of what the fee would be for their properties.

How does the billing work, and when will I see my first bill?

The City of Champaign has contracted with the Urbana and Champaign Sanitary District (UCSD) to handle the billing for the stormwater utility fee. Between May and June 2013, you will receive your first stormwater utility bill, which will appear as a new charge on your UCSD sanitary sewer bill. Most properties receive bi-monthly bills from the UCSD. This bill will be sent on a per property basis, so if you own more than one property in the City, you will receive a bill for each property that you own, unless you have a master account set up with the UCSD that has multiple properties.

How can I reduce my stormwater utility fee?

As part of the Stormwater Utility Program, incentive payments or credits are available to help customers reduce their stormwater utility bill. In order to qualify for incentive payments or credits, customers must install qualifying stormwater management features on their property that help reduce stormwater runoff or improve stormwater quality. Customers have many options to choose from including rain barrels, cisterns, rain gardens, permeable pavement and other stormwater absorbing features.  The stormwater management features must meet certain requirements for reducing the amount of stormwater and/or improving stormwater quality.  Customers must submit applications for incentive or credits to the City.  Application forms and detailed information about the incentive and credit program are contained in the Credit and Incentive Manual and Forms.

What is the difference between an Incentive and a Credit?

An incentive is a onetime payment for the installation of stormwater management feature while a credit is a recurring reduction off of a stormwater utility bill.

Single Family Residential Customers are eligible for incentive payments only. The only exception is that Single Family Residential Customers who live on detention ponds that are maintained by a Homeowners or Lake Owners Association may be eligible for a 15 percent Detention Basin Maintenance Credit.  The application for Detention Basin Maintenance Credit must be completed by the Homeowners or Lake Owners Association on behalf of the individual property owners.

Non-Single Family Residential Customers are eligible for either incentives payments or credits off their stormwater utility bill.  Non-Single Family Residential Customers include owners of commercial, retail, industrial or any other property that is not Single Family Residential.

How much are Incentives and Credits?  Are there caps on them?

Generally, incentive payments are $250 for each approved stormwater management feature on a property with a cap of $1,000 per property. Once the $1,000 cap is reached, no more incentives will be issued for that property. The only exception is that rain barrel purchases are eligible for $25 incentive payments for each rain barrel and there is no cap on the amount per property.

Credit amounts vary from 5 percent up to 50 percent depending on the type of credit. Credits are capped at 50 percent of the Stormwater Utility Fee for a particular property. Once the 50 percent cap is reached, no more credit will be issued for that property.

Who can I speak to about my stormwater utility bill?

You may contact the Public Works Department at (217) 403-4700 to speak with a customer service representative.

Why is the stormwater utility charge a fee and not a tax?

Generally speaking, the purpose of taxes is simply to raise revenue and there is no association or relationship between the source of revenue and the purpose to which it is applied. User fees on the other hand, are a fee for services provided, and have been commonly used to fund all or part of public works programs such as water, sewer, solid waste and stormwater.

The migration of stormwater program costs from taxes to fees over the last 25 years has been challenged in a number of states, and as a result the courts identify three criteria that differentiate a fee from a tax.  These criteria are that there exist: 1) a regulatory nature to the fee (it must be adopted by ordinance); 2) a relationship between the fee paid and the services provided (the fee in this case pays for stormwater management related services and programs only and is rationally distributed between ratepayers), and; 3) a voluntary nature to the fee (you can reduce fees by reducing use of the stormwater system or program). This last criterion includes the concept of credit programs to reduce costs.

What will the revenue from the stormwater utility fee be used for?

The City’s stormwater utility fee would result in more funding for stormwater capital projects. Specifically, the City’s stormwater utility fee would fund stormwater operation, maintenance, and rehabilitation expenditures. Those activities are currently funded by sales and property taxes. If those activities are funded in the future by a stormwater utility fee, then the sales and property taxes would be available for other City needs. Council has indicated these available sales and property taxes would be used for additional stormwater capital projects.

Council has made no final decisions on which capital projects to fund. However, Council has indicated that two projects are top priorities, which are:

  • Phase 1 of the West Washington Street Drainage Improvements
  • Phase 3 of the Boneyard Creek Improvements

With the existing funding, what stormwater capital improvements have been completed?

To date, the City has completed approximately $38.2 million of improvements on the Boneyard Creek. Projects include the Healey Street Detention Basin, channel improvements north of Green Street between Sixth and First Streets, the Scott Park channel improvements and detention, and the Second Street Reach channel improvements and detention. These improvements have eliminated all the flooding that used to occur along Green Street, through Scott Park, and along Second Street between Springfield Avenue and University Avenue. The projects also eliminated flooding of the Green Street viaduct. Due to the aesthetics that were incorporated into these projects, Scott Park and the Second Street Reach were transformed into beautiful community spaces.

The existing funding also provided $5.3 million for storm sewer improvements to eliminate flooding in the Springfield Avenue, Logan Street, and Chester Street viaducts. The flooded viaducts were a frequent nuisance disrupting traffic and creating public safety concerns.

Finally, existing funding has provided resources to complete drainage improvements that addressed longstanding neighborhood drainage issues in the John Street ($6.1 million) and East Washington Street watersheds ($1.8 million). In total, existing stormwater funding has provided $51.4 million for stormwater capital improvements.

Did the public have an opportunity to provide input on the stormwater utility fee?

Staff started work on the Stormwater Utility Fee in October 2009. During the last three years, there have been five Council Study Sessions on the Stormwater Utility Fee. Additionally, Council has passed four resolutions related to the Stormwater Utility Fee, plus one ordinance which established the Stormwater Utility Fee.

To help with the evaluation, Council established a Stormwater Utility Fee Advisory and Technical Committee. The committees met from September 2010 through July 2011. The advisory committee was reactivated to assist staff with the completion of the Credit and Incentive Manual for the Stormwater Utility Fee. The reactivated committee met monthly in June, July, and August 2012.

There were four public information meetings on the stormwater utility fee, plus staff met with numerous individual and group stakeholders concerning the fee. The completed outreach activities and written public input were attached as Exhibits D and E to Council Study Session, February 28,2012, Report to Council.

Do other communities utilize a stormwater utility fee?

The City of Champaign is not alone as far as a Stormwater Utility Fee goes. Several Illinois communities have instituted a Stormwater Utility Fee including Aurora, Bloomington, Downers Grove, Highland Park, Moline, Morton, Normal, Rock Island, Rolling Meadows, and Urbana.

What does the stormwater utility fee mean to the community and the citizens of Champaign?

The stormwater utility fee allows the City to continue funding all of its existing stormwater services at their current levels. For a description of current services and funding, see the Existing Stormwater Activities and Expenditures. The stormwater utility fee also provides additional funding for drainage capital improvements.

What is the Stormwater Utility Fee Expenditure, Revenue, and Billing Plan?

On March 23, 2010, Council directed staff to develop an Expenditure, Revenue, and Billing Plan for a City stormwater utility fee. The purpose of the plan was to provide specific information on how a stormwater utility fee could operate in the City. Staff indicated this plan would help Council in reaching a decision on whether or not to implement a stormwater utility fee for the community. For a summary of the plan, see Expenditure, Revenue, and Billing Plan.

How much additional revenue would the City’s stormwater utility fee provide?

It’s estimated the City’s stormwater utility fee will generate approximately $2.8M annually in additional revenue. Administrative expenses, credits and incentive payments for the fee are estimated at $324,000 annually. Therefore, new revenue for capital projects that results from the fee would be $2,476,000.

Where can additional information be found on the City of Champaign’s stormwater utility fee?

The best sources for information on the City of Champaign’s stormwater utility fee evaluation/consideration are the Reports to Council that staff prepared for the three Study Sessions that have been held on the fee. Links to these reports are listed below:

Additional reports and resolutions for other Council actions are listed below. These actions established the Stormwater Utility Fee Advisory Committee, appointed members to the committee and hire AMEC Earth an Environmental, Inc to provide technical assistance for the fee.

  • June 15, 2010 – CB 2010-127 and CB 2010-128 - Stormwater Utility Fee Advisory Committee (Establish and Appoint)
  • August 3, 2010 – CB 2010-168 - AMEC Engineering Agreement
  • April 17, 2012 – CB 2012-044: Amended the City Code to establish the stormwater utility fee; CB 2012-045: Approved the Intergovernmental Agreement between the City of Champaign and Urbana & Champaign Sanitary District for Billing Services; and CB 2012-046: AMEC Engineering Agreement